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Loss and Victory at Sickline

From the moment I had the Nirvana in my hands I could only think about one race, and that was SIckline. I just knew that the Nirvana was gonna be the boat to really give me the best chance at taking that title. Right away when showing up to Europe, the water was a nice level, the course had some subtle but difficult changes, and it was time to get into race mode. For 2 weeks the levels rose and dropped so during training we were dealing with all different kinds of levels. Which can be frustrating when trying to dial in lines, but also nice for feeling a bit more prepared for anything for the race days. By the time race day came around I knew this was gonna be a hard year, just by the talent of the people that were out there. Every year two things happen that make Sickline harder and harder, the slalom boaters get better at creeking, and the whitewater people get better at racing. Which makes the race extremely difficult but also makes it one of the best races of the year just by the sheer speed of the competition. The qualification day is one of the most stressful races, because you have trained the course dozens of times, but there is no room for error in the qualification because you cant exactly make up time in a class 2 one minute race, and if you mess up, you cant race the top section which is what you came to race. But I gotta say that I was feeling 110% more confident with the Nirvana for the qualifier because I knew the bow would stay drier through the smaller features and waves and I could focus on paddler harder instead of struggling to keep my bow above water. My two runs weren’t the fastest on the course but i was stoked to lay down 2 almost identical runs and qualify for Saturday in 4th place.

Friday night before the race is funny, because you are so stressed on trying to make sure you are ready to get a good nights sleep, myself and a few others have gotten sick off food before the night before the race so we are always so careful about what we eat, mostly just fill up on pretzel buns.

Saturday was here, it was time to paddle harder than any lap you had trained, leave no room for error, and never let your guard down with your competition. With the bracket system going head to head, I ended up in a position where if I qualified past the first heat, I would either be going against Bren Orton, or Gerd Serrasolses, because they were the heat before me. Whats amazing about the Sickline race is you never know who could put down the faster run to advance. Bren is a fast racer, but going against Gerd is not easy, he’s one of the fastest out there. I made it through my heat with a 55.6, and now it was up to Bren. Like I said you never know what could happen, Bren actually ended up knocking out Gerd in the first round, which meant it was me and him for the semi finals. I think I was more relaxed going against Bren not because I felt like i could beat him easy or anything, but because I knew we both just wanted the other person to do well, so whatever happened we would be stoked for each other. I think that more relaxed vibe allowed me to put down the course record! In 2015 Gerd set the new course record with 55.34, and that was a SICK run, and still one of the cleanest in the Sickline race. Then not more than 15 minutes before me, Sam Sutton set the record with a 55.30. But THEN just after, Vavra Hiradilek set an unreal time of 54.41 which was the new course record and the first time into the 54’s. I thought that was unbelievable and was gonna be a time to hold for a long time. But it didn’t hold as long as I thought it would. I must’ve gone 5 or 10 minutes after Vavra for my heat with Bren, and ended up putting down a 53.80 for the new record. I couldn’t believe i put it down into the 53’s, I thought there was no way to get out of the 54’s, but there it was. I was so stoked and just so fired up to be going to the finals, but also lay down a time that was faster than myself or anyone else could have expected.

But other than getting to go last because of the fastest time in semi finals, it don’t matter what the time was in semis, you still gotta lay down the run in finals! I was pretty nervous for finals because I just really wanted to get that sickline title, this was the first year I really felt like I had what it took to win it. Going last is rough for that race though, lots more waiting, trying to stay warm, trying hard not to watch people through the top of the course. But by the time I went I was feeling ready, and just wanted to lay down a smooth run. I had a good first half of the run, paddling hard, staying smooth. But on the first big move I didn’t necessarily have a bad line, I just had to take a back stroke and correct which wasn’t a very direct line. I ended up not having my greatest champions killer either. Unfortunately I came across the finish with a time that landed me in 4th, which don’t get me wrong is a respectable finish and I am still happy to be in that top 5. But it was tough to see knowing I definitely could have put down the time I needed to win, but thats whats so crazy about Sickline. There really is no room for error, and its what makes it one of my favorite races. I still had an amazing time, still get to walk away with the course record, and get to be mind blown that Sam Sutton can still win this thing, for his 4th time. Massive respect to him, as well as Aniol pulling onto the podium once again. I’ll be back next year, and the year after, and hopefully one of these years I’ll get that title, but I’m still gonna go either way, because Sickline is so SICK!

annnnd now, its long boat racing time